New State Employee Labor Contracts Face Possible Rejection
Labor unions representing about 31,000 state employees voted to approve new contracts this week. They've been working under the terms of their old contract since July 2011.
The contracts approved this week include 2 percent pay raises for most workers, although some will be in line for an additional 2.7 percent to 3.5 percent through "step" increases based on experience. There are modest increases in co-pays for health care office visits, but the contracts continue to cover 100 percent of health insurance premiums for employees and 85 percent for dependents. This is where the contracts are likely to face opposition from Republicans.
Next week the Subcommittee on Employee Relations will meet to consider the contracts. The chair of the GOP-controlled committee, Sen. Mike Parry, says the committee is likely to reject them. "The contracts were put together behind closed doors," Parry says. "The citizens of the state had no involvement whatsoever." Parry says having employees pay so little toward their health insurance is "out of step" with what's happening in the private sector where employees are taking on a bigger burden of health insurance costs. Those costs are expected to increase 9 percent for state employees this year.
Union officials declined on-camera interviews. A spokeswoman for the AFSCME labor union issued a statement, saying "we expect the subcommittee to treat state employees with respect."
If the subcommittee recommends rejection of the contracts it will be up to the full legislature to vote on them in January. If the subcommittee votes to approve, the contracts would take effect immediately.